On Mom’s time

My Mom has a rare condition where she has a naturally grown shunt in her liver. The doctor said she was born with it. But over time and at her senior age, her body is beginning to work against it. This means her ammonia levels are always high. Now after, four years of pretty much the same treatment, the medicine (at times) is not enough.

This year, my sister and I, see her struggling more. There is a fine line on whether her behavior is all due to the ammonia or could be mental issues like a decline in her cognitive skills.

On a recent trip, my mom, sister, and I shared, she showed signs that concerned us. Signs that we were thinking could be dementia. Thanks to God on our return from trip, Mom had an appointment lined up with her neurologist. At this time, after an MRI, it has been ruled out.

Now that we know her condition is all due to the ammonia, we’ve been told to keep an eye on her different than before. When she hits those high levels, she’s unaware it’s happening. Life has changed once again. My sister and I no longer feel comfortable in leaving her alone. We also know the control we somewhat had in our day with her has taken another twist. Days, like I’m about to describe, made time stop.

First let me rewind a bit and describe our typical day. We would do some routine errands like going to Walmart. What typically would take 30 minutes would run into an hour or so. Trying to get her to do what she needed quicker time was my aim. I would lose my patience since it would take a while for her to decide what she was looking for or her physical movement would slow her. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about helping her do what she wanted or needed to do, it’s just that I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture.

Now turning to this more recent outing, we had already been in the store for some time. Her focus was off as she would drift in thought of why she was there. We were coming down a main aisle and approached a display of artificial flowers. These were no where on her list, but she wanted to suddenly get some for her room. As I see her reaching to grab some, it just hit me. The distance from me to her changed. I felt a pull in my heart. The conviction came in strong. That I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. That these flowers were the only thing that mattered. And my whole vision by the grace of God showed me its importance.

I don’t care anymore. I don’t care how long it takes to do routine things with my mom. I don’t care that she asks me the same questions every time we go there or anywhere. “Should I buy this?” “Should I take my sweater?” “Do you think it’s cold in there?” “Have you checked the mail?”

I’m grateful too my sister and I are honest with her with this all. Explaining what the doctor found and what we’re seeing in her. She acknowledged she’s glad too even though we know she may not fully comprehend what it means.

My prayer now to Our Lord is that He will grace her with better health and that her condition does not get worse. That my family and I can be attentive to make her live the rest of her life with comfort and peace. And if my life, my sister’s life, family’s life is just to respond to her – that we push ours aside for her well being, then we do. I know we just want her to be cared for and safe.

I thank my husband and thank God a million times more because He knew how much I would need Ruben. Not just for the sake of my soul, but for this time in my life. My mom too.

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” – John 21:18

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Help us Lord! Help us draw nearer to you. +++

Can I get a witness?!

Today’s scripture readings, specifically:

I am writing this, my children, to stop your sinning; but if anyone should sin, we have our advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who is just; he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away, and not only ours, but the whole world’s. We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. Anyone who says, “I know him”, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit the truth. But when anyone does obey what he has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him. – 1 John 2:1-5

Fr. John’s homily emphasized how we are called to be witnesses of Christ and should always demonstrate this in our lives, speech, home, dress, relationships, work, etc.

While I was getting ready for Mass this morning, I had much heaviness on my heart. I had been recounting my actions from earlier in the week and felt remorseful/beat down. Angry with myself that I didn’t witness recently in the way I should have to people I truly care about. It was eating me up because I was looking for opportunities prior to spending time with these women and I let them go.

When this scripture passage was read today, it struck me and caught me in tears. Because it tells me that I compromised myself, fell in temptation, gossiped, and lost my union with God. It tells me I did not stay in God’s goodness so that a witness would be seen from me instead of my flesh.

I was wrestling in Mass with the thought that I thought I was more rooted in my faith and the other hand grateful this lesson has given me a knock down.

This last occurrence was nothing new. I often find myself in these situations where others judge me because I don’t carry on with them or joke or share sarcasm and so I act by chipping in other ways into the conversation which is just plain wrong. I need to be stronger than this and stay rooted.

I also know straight up it’s wrong to talk about others, but I get confused when I’m sharing about someone whose done something to me and so I speak about it which ends up being a witch hunt fest about the person, which isn’t what I intended it to be.

These are opportunities to witness that I don’t take when they have come. And I know better every time when they happen. It’s not to say that I’m batting zero, it’s just that when I commit the offense it feels like the biggest failure.

Have you wrestled with the same repeated offense? Do you have a similar situation where you are not showing strength?

Some may say “you’re coming down hard on yourself,”, “God is merciful!”

Yes, He is, but I’m thankful for the examination and contrition. To look at it and spend time reviewing what is wrong with it. And finally, not being weak because I feel it’s just easier to join in instead of saying NO.

 

I’m not perfect! I don’t pretend my life with Christ hits all the right buttons. I’m surrounded by different women who live their faith in multiple ways. We are not all like minded. The majority of women in my life are divorced or have never been married. In my opinion, I say it is easier to carry on with other women who don’t have bitter life struggles. In a way, I want to say faith hasn’t been tested in those circles like those in my life who have been cheated on, children addicted to drugs, financial strain, faithless outlooks. The walk in a sense, has not been bouquets of flowers, Polaroid snapshots, and walks in wheat fields. Does that sound harsh? I’m just trying to paint an image.

In my world, I have to pray and be present with my Lord so that those rosy escapades I do know about, because God’s grace has shown me this over and over, can be seen in my witness with those who are still living among the thorns and thistles. That one day a simple witness from me will encourage another to see Our Lord wants them to also receive a fragrant bouquet from their trials and offer it up to His glory.

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Thank you Lord for the remorse I experienced, to change it into virtue. To be given strength by the Holy Spirit and truly desire to stay away from failing to witness.+++

Little Talks with God

Little Talks with God by St Catherine of Siena edited by Henry Carrigan Jr.

Any book about St Catherine of Siena will catch my attention.  I hope someday Mel Gibson will make a film about her.  Because I believe that many women will see her as a fireball of strength.  Talk about feminism in the truest sense of the form.  Her femininity was one of her many strengths our Lord used to make her one of our greatest Saints of the Church.

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In Carrigan’s best description of St Catherine’s life is “mystical experiences with fervent activism”.

During her later years, she had a several priests write down her thoughts that were later put into books and shared with communities.  At a young age,  St. Catherine had a burning desire to know more about God and truth. This desire would change into fortitude that became spiritual lessons others to this day still learn from, like myself.

I learned much from this book.  I pretty much have each page ear dogged.  Self contemplation to the greatest degree.  Where to start and where to go in prayer, examination of conscience, courage, and faith in action to name a few.

img_6695.jpgSt. Catherine’s passion for Christ grew even more so when God showed her the needs of the world and the offenses being made against God.

St. Catherine had a selflessness that at times frightened me. She understood the punishment God could give and at the same time his limitless mercy.  She would rather suffer for those who had no clue of their sin because she knew it would be redemptive in the suffering so she spoke in prayer always to take that cup for their sake.

 

“How very pleasing to God is the willing desire to suffer for him.”

Through St Catherine’s writing, my life has learned the beauty in suffering. How I had no clue that there is purpose in suffering.   Used to think any physical or mental suffering was a kind of punishment by God. Learning more about suffering through St. Catherine, has taught me the meaning of it by explaining how it is redemptive, unifies us with Christ, offering it to Christ, and understanding His love for us.

Her writing takes you to a realm that no other writer has taken me.  I feel like I’m in another place even though I’m most likely sitting on the couch in my home.  The power in her words gives me a sense of heaven that truly gives me a connection I’m most grateful I am aware of now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drunks and Monks

I learned about this book by mention on the Jennifer Fulweiler’s show.   It caught my attention because it had to do with addiction and recovery.

Once I started reading it, I was hooked.  It’s a raw memoir from John Carmichael. He recounts his life from childhood through finding his way out of addiction by becoming a Catholic.  It struck a chord with me because I too came from an upbringing of alcoholism.

DrunksMonksIn his book, he speaks about his rise to a successful career, finding his wife, until he becomes an addict and destroys all around him. His Mom was a hard core alcoholic.  Morning, day, night. Even though he saw the reckoning, he could not find himself out of it.  Much of the effects of what would cause him to drink, did come from his relationship with his Mom and love not received by either of his parents.

He describes his environment in sunny So Cal – Orange county. The pull of the riches and struggle with letting go. I pictured well where his life took place because I’m so familiar with this area since I have visited these neck of the woods since I was a child.

One spot in particular is San Juan Capistrano Mission where he first begins his attempt in finding God. First taking back by the beauty of the Chapel where Mass is recited in Latin. Then his courage to reaching out to a monastic priest who then becomes his confessor.  And even though he made these strides he shares his very real battle working out his faith through temptation and relapse. What I appreciated is how the San Juan Capistrano community, supported him and invited him to the faith. An example for all parishes to follow.  He felt so welcomed, he even became a part of the choir.

Even though most understand, that even when one follows the Catholic Church punch card, it doesn’t mean that all will be easy going. In Carmichael’s case, the timing of his initial prep in the faith became his strength when his Mom’s struggle with alcoholism became its worst and then her diagnosis of terminal cancer.

His style of writing was as if you were experiencing it yourself.  Truly can understand his battles and his journey through faith.

If you like reads like I do like this, pick this book up!

 

 

Chapel relic

My parish, St. Timothy, installed a relics chapel.  We are blessed to have it.  I don’t know any other parish who has one.

At first when I hard they were installing one, I thought well it’s probably going to have all the big players – St Timothy, St Paul, probably some from St. Francis, St. Therese of Lisieux. So it came to a big surprise to me when I visited it the first time, and found a bone fragment relic from St. Catherine of Siena.

It’s beautifully encased in a monstrance.  It is very small to make out it is a bone fragment, but that does not lessen my time praying with her.

Now after Mass, I like to go to the chapel, stop in and say hello!  It’s funny because as soon as you walk into the chapel you’re surrounded by many Saints, so I like to say, “Good morning, Everyone!”

My prayer lately has been for courage.  I’ve been asking for St Catherine’s intercessory prayer that I have courage to do what God wills me to do.  When I pray to St Catherine, I do feel a sense like I’m in another space in time. I’ve read on her so I know she can relate to my prayer.

I hope that my parish never gets rid of this chapel.  If I’m receiving much from it, I know it has to be for others too.

 

 

 

I am Woman and I can roar too!

There is something I would like to share, but feel a little concerned on how to express it.  Quite frankly, I don’t even know what to call it. It has to do with married women with children and all other women.

With social media as the daily recognition, you can’t help but view stories or pictures of Mother’s and their children, or images of babies or children in their discoveries each day.  Which before I go any further or come up sounding bitter, SHOULD BE FILLED WITH.  What joy! What forum for mothers to relate to other mothers!

But what about the women without children, like myself, who seek a connection or validation?

For example, there are many times where I have enthusiasm on something new I learned or want to share and it doesn’t get the same response as lets say a picture of kids.  I don’t have kid pictures to post.  I mean I could share pics of my nephews and nieces, but feel that would be odd since they are not my children.

It’s not that I’m sad, or feel neglected, or desperate for attention.  That’s not it at all. But it does have to do with valuing women at any stage or journey in their life.  You come to know women’s situations – career women, middle aged unwed women, divorced women, senior women, widowed women, women without children, college aged women, women married without children, married women with children.

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So at times, I feel like input isn’t as highly praised or sought out like married women with children from our Church.  Why is that?

I even notice it at my parish in its ministries. For a while now, I’ve thought of contacting our pastors and asking them if a group could open up for ALL women who can relate.  But for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened.

I do appreciate many Catholic Women organizations like Blessed is She, Catholic Women, Made in His Image, etc.  I do think they try to call all of us into a ministry, but the interaction directly outside of them seems like to lack a connection.

It would do us all better if we cheer others on when it appears a woman is seeming cheery.  It would do us all better if even though a woman’s despair she shared would be sympathized even if it seems like you’ve gone through worse.

I think more women who are married and are blessed with children living out their faith, could reach out and relate to other women who do not mirror their lives by just relating to all women in any degree.   There a many women I encounter who feel like they’re dangling out there and don’t fit in to what the example image is of a woman in the Church.  Let’s find them and grab them by the hand and pull them in.

There is much going on with women who don’t visibly show the Church life with kids but are in the trenches doing work for the kingdom as well. Their fruits may not be shown with a gift like a child, but their vocation is just as important!

Thanks to God, the bible is filled with stories of women living very different lives who find faith in God and who then uniquely demonstrate their journeys.  Jesus meets us where we are at and shows us the way.  Let us not forget.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Somber

From October through first week of January I had been on a roll baking and cooking. I am a fan of cooking shows and love finding recipes on Pinterest.

This Fall/Winter I decided to bake new recipes that were based on the holiday or religious observance.

Here are my creations:

For Dia de los Muertos.  A holiday I’ve never celebrated because I had the wrong education on what the day is about.  I had thought it was about laying out food for past loved ones in your home in an altar format so that their souls could come to it and grab a bite to eat.  Food they were fond of.  This would throw me off because the Church never spoke of souls returning from heaven or anywhere else after death.

However, this is not the tradition.  Tradition is that your deceased loved ones are remembered on All Souls Day by creating an altar with pictures, flowers, and their favorite foods. The favorite foods are eaten by family or friends who knew them. This I had done for years not knowing I was somewhat participating in Dia de Los Muertos. My Dad passed away in 2006, and so on his anniversary I would eat a pastry or have a root beer float.

For this time around, I was excited to observe it and went all out.  I not only made an altar, but also made this delicious bread called ‘Pan de muerto’. It’s a fragrant, tasty bread.  Main flavors are orange, anise, and much butter. It made our home smell so good. The recipe too was enough to feed about 18-20 people.  I think next year I’ll make it in smaller loaves.

Here are some pics of the altar and bread.

IMG_5042 I have to mention as I was building this altar, a flood of memories hit me and the tears flowed.  I appreciate this tradition and do plan on doing one each year.

This past Christmas, my family and I made Tamales. The first time where my family of women gathered in our home to make red chile tamales.  Mom, my sister, niece and I spent a Saturday making almost 18 dozen tamales.  We didn’t just make them, we shared laughter, conversation, and created memories.  My hope is that we will do this every year.  The recipe for these tamales was a bit trial and error, but most of the direction came from my Mom, especially her recipe for red chile.  The flavor is deep.  It can work for several recipes like chili con carne (chuck roast cooked for hours with a red chile sauce).

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For the Epiphany, which is celebrated on January 6, commemorates the Feast of the Three Kings.  The Kings presented the gifts of gold (kingship), frankincense (deity), and myrrh (death) to Jesus at his birth.

Many cultures throughout the world use this Feast to celebrate in what I found in common ways. Most traditional is baking a bread that includes a plastic baby symbolizing Jesus.  If you Google it, you’ll find a slew of recipes from all over the world.

I chose to do this recipe: Rosca de Reyes (King’s cake)

The cake to me seemed similar to the Pan de Muerto I made for Dia de los Muertos, minus anise.  However, I felt like I could decorate this bread more with my own taste.  You can design it how you want.  I went by a few pictures on Pinterest.

I enjoyed the reflection while baking. And including my family to enjoy a bite and too think more about the feast being celebrated.